Busy, but different, Boxing Day for Edmonton shoppers during COVID-19 pandemic

Shoppers wait outside the South Edmonton Common Best Buy on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, 2020. Sarah Komadina, Global News

Boxing Day in Edmonton looked, like so many other things this year, different.

Shoppers, like in past years, lined up outside the Best Buy at South Edmonton Common early Saturday morning.

But this time, they were masked up and social distancing.

“This is our busiest time of year, always,” Best Buy store lead Keith Knorr said. “Our main priority is making sure our staff are safe and our customers can continue to shop safely.”

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Retail stores are limited to a 15 per cent of fire code occupancy under the new public health measures that came into effect on Dec. 13.

For Best Buy, that now means 95 customers compared to their usual close to 400.

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For local boutique in Sherwood Park, Bella Maas, this Boxing Day also looks different.

Ashley Wilkinson has worked at the store for five years. She said this was the least stressful Boxing Day she has ever worked.

“This one’s different because we’re doing it by appointment only. Usually, it was a free for all.”

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Shoppers could book half hour appointments for up to four people.

“It’s better for the customer and it’s better for us,” Wilkinson said. “You’re not surrounded by people or fighting for things. It’s just a really private and clean experience, which is very important to us this year.”

Customers coming out of Bella Maas had similar thoughts.

“This is my first ever Boxing Day experience, so I feel like it set the bar pretty high for what my expectations are going to be,” Tiffany Pybus said. “I think if we’re going to Boxing Day shop during COVID-19 that an appointment was probably the only way we were going to leave the house.”

“It was fantastic. It was really nice to have a booked spot and to not feel like there was a ton of people waiting to get in,” Ashley Fyfe-Brown said.

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The dedicated shoppers who were waiting to get in could be found over at Best Buy.

“We had people here at 5 a.m.,” Knorr said. “I think they were expecting the 6 a.m. open, like we normally have, but we opened at 8 a.m. to shorten our hours.”

Knorr believes if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught shoppers anything, it’s patience.

“I think we’re at the stage now during the pandemic that people understand that there’s wait time,” she said. “A lot of people are more patient, I would say historically year after year, when it comes to shopping at this time of year.”

Bella Maas and Best Buy both saw increases in online sales, as well as curb-side pick-up.

“Our online store has been pretty crazy this morning. We didn’t really expect it to be that crazy,” Wilkinson said.

“For us, it was a smooth transition to be helping our customers in the parking lot versus always in the store. Just added more square footage outside essentially,” Knorr said.

Wilkinson thinks the shop local trend has continued into Boxing Day.

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“I’m just really happy our customers are shopping local. We’ve heard a lot of feedback like that, even leading up to Christmas, people wanting to shop local and be out in the community. We really wanted to give that back to our customers today.”

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